Connecticut farmers are making it easy for consumers to eat fresh, locally and seasonally, thanks to community supported agriculture programs, also known as CSAs. With these programs, customers receive a fresh box of produce, meats and other goodies each week during the season, straight from the farm.
Stone Gardens Farm
Stacia and Fred Monahan, co-owners of Stone Gardens Farm in Shelton, offer a CSA program with four options that coincide with the four growing seasons.
“Our main summer CSA goes for 20 weeks, and on either end we have a five-week, pre-season spring CSA and a five-week, post-season fall CSA,” Stacia Monahan says. “Then we have a winter one that is spread out every other week through the season.”
The couple started their CSA program in 2007 as a way to sell products with more income stability. Monahan says some of her customers had suggested the idea. After some research, they decided to go for it.
Although steady income is a major benefit tied to a CSA, Monahan says a key piece is the connection with consumers that comes out of it.
“CSA members can trust their farmers and know that we’re also feeding the same food to our family and friends,” Monahan says. “We feel good about it, so they can feel good about it, too.”
John Wolchesky, of Lapsley Orchard in Pomfret, agrees. Lapsley Orchard also offers a CSA program.
“To be able to stand there and have a conversation face-to-face with the person that grew the food – it just pushes it to a different level where it’s more than just a product,” he says. “It’s a relationship.”
Lapsley Orchard grows everything under the sun – that’s even one of their slogans – including apples, pumpkins, tomatoes, asparagus, sweet corn, berries and lots more. Wolchesky and his family have been on the farm for just over 30 years, and they decided to start a CSA program three years ago.
“One of the main reasons was that back then, farm stands weren’t as popular as they are now,” Wolchesky says. “I like to grow fun things like colored carrots, cauliflower and different kinds of radishes. One of the most important benefits of our CSA program is that I can get the customers to try new things. I enjoy that, and I think other people do, too.”
Lapsley Orchard follows a different model than traditional CSAs by allowing customers to pay a membership fee at the beginning of the season and commit to a number of boxes. The farm advertises what will be in the box each week during harvest allowing members the option to pick and choose which boxes they would like.
“People like it because if they’re going on vacation or something that week, they can pass on the box,” Wolchesky says.
Each box is a minimum of 20 pounds, containing staples such as squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet corn, plus unique items like fennel, savoy cabbage and more. The orchard’s CSA program runs for eight weeks starting in July.
Customers can look forward to Lapsley Orchard sticking around for the foreseeable future. The farm is protected through the Connecticut Farmland Preservation Program and received the DoAg Farm Transition Grant in 2016 for a mobile food trailer to sell apple cider donuts, candy apples, caramel apples, hot mulled cider and soups. They eventually plan to serve baked goods and farm-to-table dinners.